The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities declared Thursday that archaeologists have discovered a “Lost Golden City” hidden under the A̳n̳c̳i̳e̳n̳t̳ Egyptian capital of Luxor for the past 3,000 years (April 8).
Amenhotep III (ruled 1391-1353 B.C. ), the grandfather of Tutankhamun, or King Tut, founded the city known as “The Rise of Aten.” During Amenhotep III’s co-regency with his uncle, Amenhotep IV (who later changed his name to Akhenaten), as well as during the reign of Tut and the pharaoh who succeeded him, revered as Ay, people continued to use the “Golden City.”
Despite the city’s long history — historical sources say it housed King Amenhotep III’s three royal palaces and was Luxor’s largest administrative and manufacturing settlement at the time — archaeologists have been unable to find its remains until now.
In a translated quote, Zahi Hawass, the archaeologist who directed the Golden City excavation and former minister of state for antiquities affairs, said, “Many foreign missions looked for this city and never found it.”
In the year 2020, his team set out on a mission to discover King Tut’s mortuary shrine. They selected this area because “both Horemheb and Ay temples were located in this area,” according to Hawass.
When they started uncovering mud bricks wherever they dug, they were taken aback. The team quickly learned they had discovered a big city in surprisingly good condition. “The city’s streets are flanked by homes,” Hawass said, some with walls as high as 10 feet (3 meters). Rooms in these houses were crammed with knickknacks and instruments that A̳n̳c̳i̳e̳n̳t̳ Egyptians used on a regular basis.
According to Betsy Brian, a professor of Egyptology at John Hopkins University, “the discovery of this lost city is the second most significant archeological discovery after the tomb of Tutankhamun” in 1922. “Not only can the discovery of the Lost City provide us with a rare insight into the lives of A̳n̳c̳i̳e̳n̳t̳ Egyptians at a time when the empire was at its wealthiest, but it will also help us solve one of history’s biggest mysteries: why did Akhenaten and Nefertiti choose Amarna?”
The Golden City was destroyed a few years after Akhenaten began his rule in the early 1350s B.C., and Egypt’s capital was relocated to Amarna.
The team began dating the Lost City as soon as they knew they had found it. They did this by looking for A̳n̳c̳i̳e̳n̳t̳ artifacts with Amenhotep III’s cartouche seal, which is an oval filled with his royal name in hieroglyphics. The cartouche was discovered on wine pots, rings, scarabs, colored pottery, and mud bricks, confirming that the city was active during the reign of Amenhotep III, the ninth king of the 18th dynasty.
The researchers discovered multiple neighborhoods after seven months of digging. The team also uncovered the remnants of a bakery in the city’s south end, which had a food processing and cooking area with ovens and ceramic storage containers. According to the comment, since the kitchen is huge, it likely catered to a large clientele.
Archaeologists discovered an administrative and residential district with bigger, neatly-arranged units in another, still partly protected sector of the excavation. The area was walled off by a zigzag fence, an architectural style common toward the end of the 18th Dynasty, with only one entry point leading to the residential areas and internal corridors. According to the declaration, the single entry served as a security measure, granting A̳n̳c̳i̳e̳n̳t̳ Egyptians authority over who entered and exited the city.
Archaeologists discovered a manufacturing center for mud bricks, which were used to build temples and annexes, in another area. The team found seals with King Amenhotep III’s cartouche on these tiles.
The team also discovered scores of casting molds for amulets and decorative objects, indicating that the city had a thriving manufacturing line for temple and tomb decorations.
The archaeologists discovered tools linked to industrial activity, such as spinning and weaving, all over the region. They also discovered metal and glass-making slag, but the workshop that produced these materials has yet to be discovered.
The archaeologists have discovered multiple burials, including two rare cow or bull burials and a remarkable burial of a human with outstretched arms to the side and a cord tied around the knees. The scholars are now looking at these burials in the hopes of figuring out what happened to them and what they say.
The team recently discovered a vessel containing approximately 22 pounds (10 kilograms) of dried or boiled beef. The inscription on this vessel reads: Year 37, dressed meat from the slaughterhouse of the stockyard of Kha made by the butcher luwy for the third Heb Sed festival.
The archaeologists said in a statement that “this important evidence not only provides us the names of two people who lived and worked in the capital, but also confirms that the city was active during King Amenhotep III’s co-regency with his son Akhenaten.” Furthermore, the team discovered a mud seal that reads “gm pa Aton,” which translates to “the kingdom of the sparkling Aten,” the name of a temple founded by King Akhenaten at Karnak.
The capital was transferred to Amarna one year after this pot was crafted, according to historical records. This was ordered by Akhenaten, who was notorious for requiring his people to obey only one god, the sun god Aten. However, Egyptologists remain perplexed as to why he relocated the capital and if the Golden City was actually deserted at the time. According to the statement, it’s still unknown if the city was repopulated when King Tut returned to Thebes and reopened it as a religious center.
Further excavations can learn more about the city’s turbulent past. And there’s already a lot of ground to cover. “We will reveal that the city stretches all the way to the famed Deir el-Medina,” Hawass said, referring to an A̳n̳c̳i̳e̳n̳t̳ worker’s village populated by the crafters and artisans who constructed the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens.
In addition, archaeologists discovered a massive graveyard in the north that has yet to be completely excavated. So far, the team has discovered a group of rock-cut tombs that can only be accessed through rock-cut stairs, a feature that can also be found in the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Nobles.
Archaeologists hope to excavate these tombs in the coming months to learn more about the people and treasures found there.